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F.E. Walter Dam Reevaluation Study
The F.E. Walter Reservoir. Photo courtesy of the USACE. 
The Francis E. Walter Dam & Reservoir is located on the
Lehigh River
in Carbon & Luzerne counties, Pa. It is
owned/operated by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers
(USACE), Philadelphia District. 
Photo courtesy of the USACE.
 

The Francis E. Walter (F.E. Walter) Dam Reevaluation Study is being led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The DRBC, as well as the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), are non-federal co-sponsors of this study.

The F.E. Walter Dam was completed in 1961, with the single purpose of flood control; in 1988, Congress added recreation as another authorized purpose. It is one of five reservoirs owned and operated in the Delaware River Basin by the USACE.

The intent of this study is to determine if modifications to the F.E. Walter Dam structure, infrastructure, or reservoir operations can be implemented to improve water supply, fisheries, recreation, and other objectives without adversely impacting the congressionally authorized purposes of the reservoir, which are flood risk management and recreation. Any changes to those Congressionally-authorized purposes need Congressional approval.

Why is the DRBC Involved?

As the primary manager of the Delaware River Basin's water resources, DRBC wanted to be one of the non-federal co-sponsors of this study; this role also ensures all basin states are represented in the process. And, the F.E. Walter Reservoir is included in DRBC's Comprehensive Plan. The Commission has certain responsibilities to meet, for example, ensuring there is ample, clean water in the basin for all those who depend on it; that includes people, industry/business (incl. recreation/tourism businesses), and aquatic life. 

The DRBC supports the re-evaluation study. We always should be willing to consider ways to optimize, improve, and better balance multiple water needs. DRBC also supports the existing uses of the reservoir, recognizes their value to the region and to the basin, and believes those uses should be protected. Finally, DRBC supports the public input process. It is critical that the study team understand the water resources needs locally in the Lehigh Valley. Equally critical is the big picture. Can F.E. Walter be better managed for the basin? Can recreational opportunities on the Lehigh River, for example, paddling and fishing, be enhanced? Looking out 40, 80 years, will there be enough water in the basin to support all needs? What about climate impacts?  

The Commission also recognizes it is wise to study all of the basin's reservoirs to see if they are being managed and operated optimally for present and also future needs. In July 2019, the DRBC published a "Request for Qualifications" for an engineering consultant to evaluate additional storage options for meeting water demands and managing flows in the Delaware River Basin; stay tuned as that process moves forward. And, we are also looking at water demands, availability, and climate impacts throughout the basin, with an early focus on the Lehigh River.

Why is the NYCDEP Involved?

The NYCDEP owns three large water supply reservoirs at the headwaters to the Delaware River Basin in New York State. These three reservoirs are managed through a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree; changes to their operation and management have occurred since 1954, but only with unanimous consent of the five decree parties (Delaware, New Jersey, New York City, New York State, and Pennsylvania). In fact, specifically focusing a feasibility study on the F.E. Walter Dam is included in the 2017 Flexible Flow Management Program (see page 7), which is the most current management plan for these reservoirs.

F.E. Walter Dam Reevaluation Study Information: 

The study is expected to take three years. The only funding currently available is for the study; no funds are yet allotted or appropriated for anything else. Public input is important, and any potential recommendations that come out of the study will be considered in light of that, as well as weighed against economic and environmental impacts and the technical feasibility of any changes. The public can comment on the study throughout the process; information can be found at the below link.

  • USACE's webpage on the study, which includes information on how to submit written comments, as well as a fact sheet, FAQ, and a video of the January 9, 2020 public meeting.
  • DRBC Resolution for the Minutes, unanimously approved by the Commissioners on March 13, 2019, authorizing the Exec. Dir. to enter into a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement with the USACE to fund a scoping study for the reevaluation study.